Two national teams on glaringly contrasting paths will participate in South Florida’s first exhibition soccer match of the year Wednesday night.
Colombia and Guatemala will meet in an international friendly at 8 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium. The game serves as another indication of soccer being featured more prominently at the Miami Gardens facility.
Guatemala is a familiar participant in Gold Cup, qualifying for nine of the first 11 events. But Los Chapines finished sixth in the Central American Cup and failed to qualify for this year’s final group.
As a result, the team encounters a transitional stage without a significant qualifier in its immediate future. Not only was Guatemala bounced from Gold Cup, the team was an early casualty in the CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup.
“Truthfully, it is very difficult to accept the phase we are going through right now,” Guatemala defender Jose Contreras said. “These next two years will be a period in which we need to evaluate everything to improve our positioning.”
The team’s recent failures resulted in the departure of coach Ever Almeida. Victor Monzon will guide Guatemala on an interim basis.
“We are convinced that despite our setbacks we are a good team in Central America,” Monzon said. “Our matches are evenly played. We know that we can compete.”
While Guatemala battles uncertainty, joy prevails in Colombia. The men’s under-20 team won the World Cup on Sunday. Talent from the championship squad will eventually filter into the major team, increasing the country’s expectations through the next two World Cup cycles.
Former Argentina national team coach Jose Pekerman took over the major team in February 2012 and currently has Colombia in third place through eight matches of South American zone qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Colombia, which has not reached the World Cup since 1998, will play its next qualifier against Bolivia on March 22.
Wednesday’s match received a welcomed boost when Pekerman added star striker Radamel Falcao to the roster.
Falcao has become one of the top forwards in the world thanks to his performances with Atletico Madrid of the Spanish League the past two years. Falcao, 26, is third in La Liga’s scoring table with 18 goals, trailing Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.